Rock Cycle - Minerals (5B)

  • Analyzing minerals for their usefulness.
  • Evaluating the elements in minerals
  • economic
  • mineral
  • Cycle - Minerals (5B)

Students discover products that are derived from minerals.

Red Dog Mine, Alaska, mined for tin.


Minerals are important in our society. They create many useful products. The following information can help make the products used in the lab more meaningful.

Silica gel is used to help keep products dry. The gel can keep water molecules away from a product, and then the product will not be exposed to or damaged by water. It is used is many powdered substances as a drying agent. Silica gel is a hydrated form of quartz.

Gypsum board, also called wallboard, sheet rock, or plaster board, is used for walls in home and businesses. In very old homes the walls were made with wood, metal netting, and plaster, which was composed of powdered gypsum. The invention of gypsum board, made it easy for construction workers to build walls. Now they simply put up wood frames and nail the gypsum board onto them. The workers then put a thin cover of plaster on the gypsum board, and the wall is finished. Plaster of Paris also contains gypsum.

Fish weights are used to get fish line into the water. Otherwise, it is so light that it would float. The lead in these weights makes the line heavy. 

Coins are a variety of different metals. Pennies were once made of pure copper, but to make them more resistant they are now made of a mixture of copper and other metals.

Porcelain tile is mainly made of powdered feldspar and clay. The powder is mixed with water, and then fired, producing a hard, durable material. Porcelain makes excellent tiles, dishes, cups, and dolls, to name a few items.

Steel is complicated using many different mineral and rock ingredients. Iron ore is a rock that contains iron combined with oxygen. It is sourced from mines around the world. Coke is made from coal. Once mined, the coal is crushed and washed. Flux is a term which describes minerals used to collect impurities during iron and steelmaking. Fluxes used include limestone and dolomite.

Vermiculite is a mica used in agriculture and insulation purposes. In agriculture it is  mixed with soil to create a more porous, absorbent soil. As an insulator, it is used both as a heat and sound insulating material. 

Minerals have many uses in our society. You can add very easily to this lab as you learn more about how minerals are used. Some companies in the mineral industry have informational brochures that outline the use of their products. You may want to ask your students if their parents have any examples that you can add to your collection.

The goal of this lab is for students to see different products that are derived from minerals and to analyze the properties of minerals that make them useful. This list can help you provide information about certain minerals that your students may see in the lab. You may want to go over this material during your conclusion.




anything with lead


contains lead

sheet rock, plaster of Paris


soft, breaks easily

ceramics, tile


chemical composition

magnets, iron, nails, screws

HEMATITE iron ore (Fe3 O2)


garden rock


hard, pretty

make up, glitter, shiny wallpaper, vermiculite

complicated SiO3

shiny sheets

watches, glass





chemical composition

pipe, pennies


soft, resistant

sulfuric acid


contains sulfur


  1. Students learned in the Pre Lab that minerals are very important in our world. Point out that many  products come from minerals, and that minerals come from mines. Contrast this with organic products, such as wooden tables. Ask the students the origin of gypsum board, pencil lead, faucets, pennies, polyester, and plastic. The minerals for these products are mined. (Polyester and plastic materials are derived from oil that is essentially mined!)

  2. Have the students predict which minerals might be found in these products. Give them clues from the written material above.  The most important concept is for students to try and make connections from the previous lab. You can easily add other products to this lab

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